Kid-friendly, clay-crafting wargame Necromolds is back, heading for a reprint after its second Kickstarter campaign (currently ongoing) smashed past its $100,000 goal. The Kickstarter also includes Necromolds first expansion, Call to Arms, which brings in new features from the wider world of wargaming, such as equipment and a wounds system. However, designer Clint Bohaty says it does so without becoming too mentally taxing, and that Necromolds remains at its core “a great introduction to wargaming”.
A miniatures wargame designed to bring kids and newbies into the wargaming hobby, Necromolds has players building minis out of playdough, and then waging war with them in a rules-lite skirmish system. As creator Bohaty says, the building blocks of the game are: “you’re moulding armies of monsters; you’re throwing them at each other on a battlefield; and you’re smashing them as they defeat each other.” Last year, esteemed tabletop gaming website Wargamer described Necromolds in a review as “the perfect gateway wargame”, and praised it for being a kids-focused product that didn’t skimp on quality.
While the base Necromolds game had three rules levels, targeted at different age ranges and levels of experience, the Necromolds: Call to Arms expansion brings in new features that Bohaty says “add a ton of strategy to the game”.
These include Necrocaster player boards, asymmetric abilities you can call upon during a game to tilt the battle in your favour, based on which of six ‘Necrocaster’ champions you’re using. There’s also a wounds system that involves sticking plastic swords into enemies, to indicate how they’ve become weakened, and an artifact system with “little plastic weapons and armour and stuff like that, that each come with their own unique abilities that you actually get to put in your Necromold monsters”.
While part of the reason for the Call to Arms expansion is to bring in Necromold versions of systems from existing wargames, Bohaty says another source of inspiration is the feeling of customising action figures, and that it should feel like playing with toys.
“I tried to really push the physicality and the visual style of the game design to be very inviting for people,” he says. “One of the goals with the Necromolds design was that I could put all the components in front of someone, and basically be like, ‘how do you play this game?’ And they could probably kind of figure it out”
That said, Bohaty does intend for Call to Arms to add a new level of strategy and complexity to Necromolds, and says in playtesting, when experienced wargamers get their mitts on the game: “You wouldn’t think it was a war game for kids, right? You’re in it to win.”
“How I want to treat Necromolds is that there’s this base level to the game that kids can get into,” he says. “But once they feel like they’ve mastered those rules, and it’s not challenging anymore, suddenly they can add the Call to Arms expansion on there and build these levels of strategy onto the base game” Bohaty compares it to how, for kids in the early 2000s, the Harry Potter books grew up with you, becoming gradually more mature over the years.
“There is that fear that as you add more things to the game, the weight of the game gets so complex that you lose the approachability of the game and the friendliness of the game to a new player,” Bohaty admits, adding that “there were points during its development, where the game was very complex, very crunchy.”
So he and his co-designer took a step back and put each aspect of that build under a microscope, stripping out what wasn’t needed. The mission is: “take some of those big high level ideas from Wargaming that are a little more complex than what was in the base game, and streamlining them into what feels like it should be a part of Necromolds.”
Balancing complexity and new player friendliness has been a constant concern for Bohaty, “because at the end of the day, you know, no matter what the expansion is, you’re still playing with clay. And it’s still kind of a silly game; and there’s a ton of great crunchy war games out there.
“Necromolds is a game that has carved out a space for itself within this big category of other wargames. It should probably be the best it can be within that space, which is this great introduction to Wargaming.”
Necromolds first Kickstarter raised just over $110,000, and Bohaty set the goal for the reprint at $100,000, with a secret personal goal of raising double that. “We’ve gone way beyond that, and that is so cool to see,” he says. With six days left to go, the Necromolds expansion and reprint Kickstarter has raised almost $500k.
Necromolds’ Call to Arms Kickstarter closes on October 6, and backers are expected to receive their games and rewards in one year’s time, in September 2023.